Ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan is dead
Mehdi Hassan, the India-born Pakistani ghazal maestro, passed away
at a Karachi hospital Wednesday after a prolonged illness. He was
His son Arif told Geo News »
New Delhi: Ghazal
maestro Mehdi Hassan first mesmerised connoisseurs with his
rendition of "Gulon main rang bhare", step one of a long musical
journey that lasted five decades. The death of the artist, who
gave voice to ghazals such as "Patta patta boota boota" and "Abke
bicchde khwaabon mein mile", brings the curtains down on an era of
lyricism, melody and poetry in light Hindustani classical music.
Born in undivided India in 1927, the ghazal singer, who passed
away in a Karachi hospital Wednesday after a prolonged illness,
was instrumental in opening up the evocative world of Urdu poetry.
He popularised the poetry form as a musical genre for millions of
Pakistani and Indian homes in the process.
The soft-spoken man was the uncrowned king of music for Pakistan's
movie industry and further raised the profile of the ghazal, once
considered passe among elite exponents of Hindustani classical
According to an estimate by his son Arif, Hassan gave voice to
more than 20,000 songs and, apart from Urdu, also sang in Bengali,
Punjabi and Pashto.
Some of his famous ghazal renditions include "Zindagi mein sabhi
pyar kiya kartein hain" (written by Qateel Shifai); "Dekh tu dil
ki jaan se uthta hai" (by Mir); "Shola tha jal bujha hoon"; "Yeh
mojeza bhi mohabbat dikhaye mujhe" (by Qateen Shifai); "Abke
bicchde khwaabon mein mile" (Ahmad Faraz); "Baat karni mujhe
mushkil" (Bahadur Shah Zafar); Uzr aane mein bhi hai (Daagh Dehlvi)
Born to a family of Kalawant musicians in Luna village, now in the
Indian state of Rajasthan, Hassan was musically baptised by father
Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Ismail Khan, who were Dhrupad
The family migrated to Pakistan after partition and sank into
penury. Eking out a living was difficult. Young Mehdi began to
work in a bicycle shop and later became an auto-mechanic.
In his book "Mehdi Hasan: The Man & his Music", Pakistani author
Asif Noorani has highlighted this phase of Hassan's life and
written that his humility stood tall against the fame and
greatness he had achieved later.
"He had earned his living by repairing automobiles during his
younger days. During his years of stardom, his harmonium broke and
he started repairing it himself, wittingly replying to the people
surrounding him that this was a piece of cake compared to the
number of engines that he had repaired in the past," Noorani
The hardships of life notwithstanding, Hassan stuck to his music
and continued with his "riyaz". His patience paid off when he was
invited to sing for Radio Pakistan in 1957 - first as a 'thumri'
singer and then as a 'ghazal' exponent.
Hassan had to work harder than many of his younger colleagues but
his innovative approach earned him fame.
Traditionally, ghazals were sung in a thumri-like manner. They
were set to ragas like Khamaj, Piloo and Desh. The classical
format stymied the scope of the compositions - preventing it from
However, Hassan pioneered a "ghazal gayaki" that played upon the
mood of the music rather than on the classical nuances.
A composer of rare brilliance, he had a flair for using the ragas
best suited to the ghazal's appeal.
Hassan's style combined dhrupad, khayal and Rajasthani folk music.
His magic was not confined to Pakistan, he was equally popular in
India. In fact, he was one of the first Pakistani ghazal singers
who charmed Indian audiences.
His fan following had impressive names - Lata Mangeshkar once
described his voice as the "Voice of God" and former prime
minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a great fan of his melodies.
In October 2010, Mangeshkar and Hassan teamed up for "Tera Milana"
in the album "Sarhadein", probably their first and last duet.
In 1978, when Vajpayee was foreign minister, Hassan had performed
at his residence.
After shining on the music firmament from 1962 to the early 1980s,
Hassan's career started fading as illness took a toll and Urdu
films became less popular.
His home country honoured him with several awards and honours -
Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and Hilal-e-Imtiaz.
The Nepal government too honoured him with the Gorkha Dakshina
Hassan, who married twice, is survived by 14 children - nine sons
and five daughters. Both his wives died before him.